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Q1 Physics Data


My Q1 Objectives:

General Knowledge

GK.1    I can properly use scientific notation.

GK.2    I can properly use significant figures in calculations.

GK.3    I can use dimensional analysis to convert units and check the validity of equations.


Constant Velocity

CV.1    I can differentiate between position, distance and displacement.

CV.2    I can solve problems using constant velocity in one direction.

CV.3    I can draw and interpret graphs and visuals to represent motion with constant velocity.


Constant Acceleration

CA.1    I can draw and interpret graphs and visuals to represent motion with changing velocity.

CA.2    I can describe the motion of an object in words by viewing a velocity-vs-time graph.

CA.3    I can solve problems regarding motion in one direction by using kinematics concepts.


Vector Operations

VO.1    I treat vectors and scalars differently and can distinguish between the two.

VO.2    I can solve problems by graphically adding and subtracting vectors.

VO.3    I can apply the Pythagorean Theorem and tangent function to calculate the magnitude and direction of a resultant vector.

VO.4    I can resolve vectors into components using the sine and cosine functions.


Projectile Motion

PM.1    I can accurately represent a projectile in multiple ways (graphs, diagrams, etc.)

PM.2    I can solve problems involving objects experiencing projectile motion


I decided on these concepts after looking at our textbook and the district curriculum guides:

I also knew that I needed to quiz on each concept at least twice, and offer the students the option to retest at any time.  (Some students did, but those informal quizzes on individual objectives are not included in my quiz schedule down below.)

I ended up giving 10 quizzes this quarter, and aside from Quiz #6 and #10, most quizzes took between 15 and 20 minutes of class time and did not take an entire day of instruction.

My quiz schedule and objective attempt numbers are shown below:


By having all objectives from GK.1 to VO.4 appear more than once, it meant that if a student was absent for a certain quiz, Quiz #6 served as a catch-all makeup for the 1st half of the quarter, and Quiz #10 did the same for the 2nd half.

Students were required to test twice on each objective.  The 1st attempt was on a 6-9 point scale, and the 2nd was on a 6-10 point scale.  After the 2nd attempt, the objective becomes out-of-10 in the grade book instead of out-of-9.  I provided this cushion for two reasons.  The first being that I didn’t want to assign a student a failing grade for their first attempt on an objective on a quiz.  A 6/9 would hold as a passing 67% and give them until the next attempt to improve.  If they received another 6 or did not retest, it would become a 6/10 or a failing 60%.

The second reason is that I did not want to award perfect scores for a first attempt either.  (Especially if I was going to let them keep their highest scores.) A 9/9 on a first attempt would satisfy my honor students, letting them know that their understanding was on track for my expectations, and allowing them to have an A until the next attempt.  Because the questions scale in difficulty, the second attempt question always sets the benchmark for concrete understanding.  So if the student has not made gains in understanding to tackle the increase in difficulty for the 2nd attempt, their 9/9 becomes a 9/10, or a high B grade.  This requires students to maintain their content knowledge after the first attempt.  I think this is a big deal because so many students cram for tests and then let the knowledge slide.

It’s simple:  A-level understanding on the first attempt is not going to be the same as A-level understanding on later attempts.  The class increases in scope and difficulty, and topics are revisited.  Likewise, a lack in knowledge on the first attempt should not lead to a failing grade unless that lack of knowledge continues to be present in later attempts.

We had some very honest discussions in class about what this grading scale means, and what I actually want from them.  Once the students settled into the quizzing schedule, I think they’ve grown to like it.  They are quizzed more often than previous classes I’ve had, but I think that has alleviated some of the test anxiety I used to see.  They are comfortable doing their best, and knowing that they have the safety net of upcoming attempts and ‘pick-your-own’ style quizzes has really relaxed the vibe in my class.

Now, let’s look at the final grades based on objective.  (I’ve sorted each objective from highest to lowest scores so it is easy to see how many students got each grade.)


(Looking back at this, I’ve noticed that the 3rd time is the charm for a lot of students.  I just know we could have gotten better scores on Projectiles with one more attempt!  I will do my best to make sure all objectives get 3 attempts next quarter.)

I love having data like this because I can say “Where does my class excel? and Where do they struggle?”

By looking at CA.2, I can say that my students kick serious butt at reading graphs and determining whether or not acceleration is constant.

But by looking at VO.3 and VO.4, I know that I should probably review vector operations before we start talking about forces.

It feels better than my old system where I would say “Well Chapter 2, Quiz 2 was rough…I guess they have trouble with acceleration?”

Likewise, a student can see this info in the grade book too.  Rather than just ask to retake a vague chapter quiz, they will say “I don’t like my score on *Specific Concept*”  As a teacher, that makes my job a lot easier when the students know exactly what they need to review and what they need to ask of me to help them.

Speaking of individual students, for anonymity’s sake, I mixed the data for both physics classes and sorted by highest grade to lowest to create the table below:


I also added a column that keeps a count of how many of their homework assignments were submitted for feedback.  I don’t assign letter grades to homework (new decision as of this year), but I always recommend practice and offer feedback.

Surprisingly, I’m still seeing a lot of the same all-or-nothing that I saw in my previous classes.  Some students like to have every homework assignment checked over, and some have submitted nothing.

However, these are the highest overall grades I’ve ever given a physics class at the end of 1st quarter.

This got me thinking even more.  So I went back and looked at my previous 2 years of physics classes Q1 grades.  I made an excel column with their given grade, and then a column with just their assessment grade percentage.  (I had been treating tests as 40%, with labs/projects at 30% and homework as 30%)

I discovered than on average, a student’s given grade was 7% higher than their assessment grade.  At the extremes, I had 3 students who managed get a grade that was more than 20% higher than their assessment grade just through homework/project completion.  I also had one student who got a grade that was 27% lower than his assessment grade because he did not do homework.

With the inclusion of non-assessment items in the final grade, I had really diluted the grade as an indicator of a student’s knowledge.  I see students who only passed because they did the homework, and students who only failed because they didn’t.

I was very apprehensive about eliminating the homework grade from physics, but after noticing how much homework could inflate or deflate a grade, and after several run-ins with academic dishonesty from honor students trying to preserve their 4.0 because they were afraid to try and fail on homework, I feel it was the right thing to do.

Changing my class so much this year has been uncomfortable, sure.  I didn’t know if I’d get any students turning in homework simply in exchange for my help.  I didn’t know if they’d truly take advantage of the opportunity to retest.  But they have.

I think my physics students trust me more this year than they ever have.  They are more willing to try and ask for help.  They are more invested in the content because they see it broken into objectives rather than lumped into tests.  The conversation has changed.  I have yet to hear a physics student say, “What can I do to bring up my grade?”  Instead, they are saying, “I need to work on *concept*.  Can you help me?”

I’m using the same notes…same lectures…same labs from last year.  I assign the same problems as last year for practice instead of homework.  All I did was remove the grade and change my assessment format.

If I had known the difference this would make, I would have started last year!

Engineering Design Process Printables

These were CLEARLY inspired by Sarah’s Eight Mathematical Practices posters.  I originally tried to download her editable powerpoint, but for whatever reason it wasn’t working on my computer.

I am using the design process recommended by Vex Robotics EDR curriculum, so I needed enough shapes for 10 steps.

As my role in the school changes from math teacher to physics/stem teacher, I need to change the focus of my decor.  I lovingly gifted my copy of the mathematical practices to a fellow math teacher, and hope these serve the same purpose in my new role while capturing the aesthetic of the originals.

All Posters as a PDF:


Powerpoint File (Easily Adjusted!)


The Beginning of Year 5

Today was really weird.

So for the past 2-ish weeks, I’ve been at our brand-spanking-new high school building.

I unpacked all of my stuff and made it look presentable.

I put posters everywhere.

I did my pre-planning.

But today the students arrived and it finally became real for me.

This was my new classroom.  These are my new classes.  I have some pretty big changes planned.


Distributive Property Sliders

I’ve been working on the Distributive Property in my Transmath classes.  It’s one of my favorite lessons to teach, but it always ends up taking 3-4 days until all students are proficient.

I was going on my 3rd day of teaching Distributive Property, and I really wanted to try something different.  I was looking through my blogroll on feedly and I saw this post by MissCalcul8 which led me to this post by Restructuring Algebra.  (It’s always great to add another blog to my list.)

Anyway, I’m sure that while I used sliders in my own education, the idea of using them in my high school classes hadn’t quite occurred to me.  My transmath classes will not get to function notation this year, and I’m too impatient to bookmark blog posts and wait to use them later.

So I busted out powerpoint and made my own for distributive property.  This is what the end result looked like:

Distributive Sliders

(We flipped a coin and rolled a die to determine the signs and values of the numbers on the 5th slider)

We spent half of a class period putting the sliders together, and then spent the next day an a half sharing and solving problems that students created.

Could I have given the same amount of problems on a worksheet and said, “Pick five and solve for tomorrow?”

Of course…but this was way more fun!

Distributive Property Sliders

Let’s Play 25


What makes a good survey?

Yesterday, I opened my work e-mail to find a survey about professional development.  We have had a lot of PD this year, and I was kind of excited to give my input.  But time got away from me, and I didn’t get to it until this morning.  In that time, the original sender of the survey said that responses to PD have been overwhelmingly positive.

There were 18 questions total.  I found two of them a little bit odd and thought I’d share.

Question 2

This question doesn’t allow for any comments.  What if I didn’t have a take-away?  What if I’ve already read this person’s books but still enjoyed seeing them?  What if it was an elementary specialist that was largely irrelevant to me as a math/physics teacher?

I look at this one and feel like it’s weighted in the positive direction.  It’s almost like there is a ‘Somewhat Uninformative’ and ‘Largely Uninformative’ option missing from the bottom of the choice list.

This later question suffers from the same problem…

Question 7

As you can see from the rows and rows of bubbles, we have seen quite a few things this year.  Now not every teacher has seen all of them, but I could offer an option on at least 10 of these PD choices.

My big problem again is the lack of a comments box.  Where can I say the things that I share on twitter?  What if I found it insulting that the speaker made fun of the tech generation (while I took notes on my phone) and appealed only to traditional methods?  What if I liked a speaker, but would like them better in a smaller setting or break-outs?  What if I wanna suggest Skypeing someone cool?

I also don’t like that I don’t have the option to say something wasn’t of use or wasn’t good information.  For example, I have repeatedly been shown how to fold a piece of lined paper in half to make t-notes…and this will revolutionize my teaching.  Where do I say that I know where to find graphic organizers online, and don’t need to be shown anymore?  (Please…)

Where can I say that I would like to talk to people who teach the same subjects, but maybe in a different area?  How do you REALLY handle diversity in a math/science class.  How do other teachers REALLY make math meaningful and hands-on?  What kinds of field trips and activities can I use to bring a science class from good to great, even though museums, theme parks and traditional outings are farther away?

So after I answered the survey I drafted and sent an e-mail.  I feel bad because I know that reading my e-mail is more work than slogging through my survey responses, but I don’t really feel like some of the survey questions captured my opinion on the subject.

The rest of the survey was fine, but I wonder how much two poorly worded questions can skew the overall results of the survey to the positive side.

And just to clarify, I believe that these two questions were an honest oversight, and not intended to adjust the results.  But if we’re going to ask for honest responses to PD, we need to make sure that the option to respond negatively is always there.

I Usually buy a Calendar…

But this year, I’ve just decided to grab this calendar from diy home sweet home.


Go check it out because the original has room for notes and to-do lists, and it fits nicely on one page.  This actually makes me really sad that I only have a black and white printer at home, because I do love the color scheme.  My plan is to laminate this and use overhead projector pens to fill in my month.

Teacher Appreciation 2015

TAW 2015

I feel like the placement of teacher appreciation week is genius.  It’s always about the time when students decide that all work is optional and seem determined to spend the last two weeks tanking their grades.  And of course it’s about the time that I become extra determined to get some of that work handed in so I can prove that ‘Hey, these guys know enough to move on!  I know they do!  I have proof!’.

So the week has started with an awesome sign on my door.  (Which I’m contemplating making all of my kids sign at the end of the week to serve as a yearbook type thing…)

…and I opened my mailbox to find a package of pop rocks.

and after I find a can of Coke to drink with these…I’ll be back to chasing down students to bring up those grades.

Honestly…they could call this Teacher Motivation Week…because it totally works that way.

How I spent my Summer Vacation

So this happened…Wedding

It was a windy day on the beach, but still beautiful.

Since the Art Teacher and I live in a particularly landlocked state, it took us about 36 hours to make a one-way trip to the beach for our wedding.  We did our best to break up the drive with stops in St. Louis both ways.

(The zoo and art museum are both awesome and free, by the way!)

After about two weeks on the beach, my mind started to drift back to teacher-work.  I don’t think that the church marquee below was intended to be funny, but I laughed.  Apparently I do both God and Satan’s work in my classroom.

Sighted in North Carolina…

I leave for Grad school in less than a week.  It will actually be my first time staying in a dorm room…

Before that, I’m trying to do all the prep work that I can for my Intro to Algebra class.

Since this is the only class that I know I will be teaching, I’m going crazy on the prep.  Making posters, wordles, ordering supplies, writing their assessments…I even bought a few composition books so I could try creating ISNs this year.

We’ll just have to see.


Who am I?

I’m a high school math teacher named Amanda.  Last name to follow as soon as I decide whether or not to take my fiance’s.

I have 92 days to figure that out.

Why am I starting this blog?

I want to quit spamming my facebook friends with ed-related material.  I want to be able to easily round up things I encounter online and share my opinion.  I want to talk about books I’ve read and neat things that I’ve discovered.  I want to be able to occasionally share mathy things that are beyond the scope of my 53-minute lessons.

…because the internet is a seriously cool place and I want to keep a record of all of the resources I find.

I eventually want to add links to course materials for my students, so that they can easily catch up when they miss a day.  Right now, I’m only twenty-something, but I feel like keeping well-connected is the first step in staying young and hip.

What am I going to talk about?

Books!  I’m currently reading The Smartest Kids in the World by Amanda Ripley.

Grad School! (If I get in…)

…and all of the other strange things I learn from teenagers on a daily basis.